Daniel the Tiger, a much-loved character on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, couldn’t afford to go home to the jungle for Christmas to be with his family. He was devastated. This struck a cord of injustice in 7-year-old Jess. She lept into action in her father’s wood shop, with the limited tools she had learned, and built Daniel a wooden airplane to transport him home. After imploring her parents, they shipped it to the PBS station that aired Mr. Rogers. In this moment, a designer was born -- driven by empathy and a belief that her action could positively impact the lives of others.
Jess is a Design Thinking practitioner, Experience Designer, and Strategist. She has over a decade of experience leading design work and equipping others through workshops, facilitation, and ongoing micro-learning opportunities. She ignites new behaviors in individuals and teams, helping establish and nurture creative cultures within organizations and coaching her clients in sustaining new mindsets over time. Jess pulls apart complex systems-level challenges into their bite-sized designable pieces, to make transformational change approachable. She helps clients cast the “future of X” to anticipate upcoming pivots and new directions. She also works with individuals to discover and articulate the sense of personal purpose that fuels their work. Some of her People Rocket clients include Intel, Mozilla, and WorkLab.
Jess teaches at Stanford University, with courses ranging from Human Values in Design for undergraduates, co-taught with David Kelley, to Entrepreneurial Studies for gifted high schoolers from around the globe. While working at the Stanford d.school, she helped reimagine the future of higher education in the year-long Stanford 2025 Project.
Jess ignites intra/entrepreneurial leaders using the tools of design thinking and motivated by a deep sense of personal purpose in their work. She builds capabilities and spark new behaviors through co-designing working and learning environments. Jess’s clients spot opportunities others miss, growing their offerings to serve unexpected customers and extending their brand. Jess makes insurmountable challenges decipherable and brings solutions within reach, making each step in a process of transformational change feel possible and action-oriented.
Jess began her career envisioning immersive exhibitions of the future for the Department of Architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago. She then joined IDEO where she focused on healthcare, organizational transformation, and social innovation work. Jess spearheaded the Design for Social Impact domain, which grew into IDEO.org, and helped jumpstart a series of open-source human-centered design toolkits. She went on to help launch the startup school African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, building its flagship entrepreneurship program. Today, as Founder of Entrepreneurs by Design, Jess helps individuals and teams discover their unique sense of purpose in their work, and tackles its underpinnings found in systems-level challenges from K12 to higher ed.
Jess enjoys woodworking and can be frequently found holding a Skil-saw or power drill with her 3-year old son to craft a portico for his toy cars or a new train engine. Using her graphic design and prototyping skills, drawing and sketching are core to Jess’s design and creative process, resulting in artifacts that are constant reminders and enduring tools for specific learning and transformational experiences.
Jess has surfed the sand dunes in Namibia (on a snowboard), rafted the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, and was taught the proper Ethiopian tea ceremony by a local farmer whose family hosted her for the night.
Jess’s mission is to equip individuals, teams, and organizations with the tools of designers, to create both external and internal impact -- from bringing meaningful offerings to life for many to designing the work that aligns with one’s unique purpose.